Onirim Review

Released 2014
Designer Shadi Torbey
Publisher Asmodee (Website)
Players 1 (technically you can play 2, but really solo game)
Playing Time Physical: 15 – 25 minutes (mainly shuffling)
Digital: 5-10 minutes
Category Card Game
Solo
Hand Management
Set Collection
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you escape the nightmares?

Onirim is a game that players either know about or have never heard of. Like all well-kept secrets, not only is Onirim a gem of a game, it is also part of a greater universe – the Oniverse.

Why is it such a well kept secret? I think a big part of this is that the Oniverse are single-player games, and solo games aren’t given a significant push marketing-wise.

The Oniverse shares a common theme, taking place in a dreamscape universe. What more do you need to know to play them? Nothing. That’s something else that the Oniverse games share – you don’t need to know the theme at all. It is light enough for a superficial theme, however, go digging and the lore is surprisingly profound.

So what is Onirim?

If you want to get technical, Onirim is a set collection/deck management game. Make sets of three coloured cards with different symbols to unlock doors, unlock all of the doors to win.

Like all simple games, this does not sound inviting. But if you look at all great games, they all boil down to ‘You just do the thing’. The factor of what makes a decent or good game great is the extra feelings the game can give you, and Onirim manages to get into your head in very subtle ways.

All you have to do is open these doors. What can be hard about that?

So why do I want to keep reading?

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I recently started playing Onirim again on my phone. Onirim has been on my solo playlist since it was released five years ago, and when I think of what to play next, it always manages to be on the shortlist.

Why is it always good to play? Firstly, it’s a known quantity that doesn’t ask a lot of time from me. These days, that’s always appreciated. Secondly, it has a free digital version that is spot on in terms of game mechanics and simplifies setup so much.

That’s right – for a change, I can do a board game review AND a video game review at the same time! And because the digital implementation is free, I can also highly recommend playing it to see how you like it.

Got a couple of minutes and want to challenge yourself? Onirim Digital is a great choice

OK, I’m listening. So what is Onirim?

According to the theme, you play as a Dreamwalker trapped in a dream labyrinth. To escape, you need to unlock all of the oneiric doors. Vefore you run out of cards. That’s right – you get to go through the deck once and once only.

When dealing with a random draw pile, getting the right cards is hard enough, but there are nightmares as well. If you are unlucky enough to draw a nightmare card, you will lose cards. The game makes you choose to discard the remaining cards in your hand or the top 5 cards in the deck. When you discard from the deck, if you draw a door card or a nightmare, they stay in ‘Limbo’ and are shuffled back into the deck.

I can discard my hand, but I need the green sun to unlock a door. Lucky I have a key that will beat the nightmare!

You can choose to discard what is left in your hand instead. This makes the cards you lose a known quantity, but sometimes you really need the cards in your hand, so it can be a harrowing decision to make.

Lose track of how many cards you have played or discarded, and you will lose. Get a bad run of drawing nightmares, and you will lose. Each decision counts towards a win, but the luck element has you dreading the next draw. It still surprises me that hundreds of games later (yep, I played a lot over the years), I still get that rush of excitement or disappointment as I win or lose.

I just need to unlock the blue door to win. But I have almost a 50/50 chance of drawing nightmares!

So that’s it? You just play cards out?

Yep. As I said before, just describing the game to someone makes it sound boring and question why anyone would want to play it. But once the rules all click (normally takes one maybe two games), you really start to want to beat such a simple system.

And again, the digital base game is free. You can try it yourself for nothing and decide if you like it or not. Yes, digital expansions will cost but it’s only a couple of dollars each, and by then you will know if you want to add new cards, powers and objectives.

That said, if you like the game I would suggest buying Onirim Second Edition physically. Why? It comes with all expansions and variants, most of which are not available digitally. Use the digital app to try before you buy, and see how much you like it for yourself.

The physical copy. So much potential gaming in those cards - and so much shuffling!

So what can I play Onirim on?

You can get the digital version of Onirim on Steam for PC, and there are Android and iOS versions as well. If the links don’t work for you, just search for Onirim (maybe add Solitaire Card Game) from Asmodee Digital and you can’t go wrong.

Final Thoughts

Onirim is a rare board game. It’s a highly abstract game that makes it easy to immerse yourself. While the core gameplay is simple, the physical version comes with expansions that let you scale the complexity to increase replayability.

Five years later, and I keep coming back to Onirim. I have that much fun with it.

But. Like a match 3/tap to continue mobile game, Onirim is a fun and challenging quick game before mobile gaming was a science. It’s not a campaign/legacy game, and yet it is a game that has continually pulled me back after long absences.

And best of all? You can try the excellent base game digitally for free. Even if you don’t enjoy digital gaming, the implementation is spot on. Also, the in-game tutorial is excellent, making the digital version a great try before you buy experience.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Easy to learn and play
  • You can set your difficulty/complexity with expansions
  • Digital version makes games lightning quick to get into

Cons

  • The physical version is a lot of shuffling and setup
  • High luck factor can put off some players

 

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Gloomhaven Early Access – Initial Play and Thoughts

So I finally got to jump in the dungeon… and jump in the deep end I did!

So if you follow me at all, you will know how much I have been looking forward to trying out Flaming Fowl Studios and Asmodee Digitals version of Gloomhaven. And this week, it finally came out on Early Access!

I have had the physical version for a while now, but it’s always been one of those ‘not tonight’ games. Not because I am not keen – setup and teardown are my two biggest concernt. Just setting up Gloomhaven can take the better part of an hour (especially without practice), so being able to turn the PC and play is appealing.

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to sit down and play the game. And I must say at the moment there is a lot of promise for what can be achieved!

So what’s missing in Early Access?

Basically – a lot. And yes, you are being asked to pay a pretty hefy price up front for a game with what looks like minimal content.

How do I come up with the very scietific quantity of a lot? Of the physical games 17 characters and 47 enemies, only four playable characters, nine enemies plus three bosses are available on Early Access Launch.  Environments are not yet available, and I would guess maps and equipment as well.

Also missing is the 95 scenario campaign – by far Gloomhavens biggest drawing point. Instead, you have random adventures across the land in a stripped down turn based dungeon crawl.

Gloomhaven in play 2
A lot of the physical game contents are missing from the digital version - but the developers are working on it and being very upfront about it

None of this has dampened my enthusiasm at all though. Flaming Fowl Studios and Asmodee Digital have been very upfront that the full experience will be coming in time, with Early Access a chance to make sure all is going well.

So knowing that things are ‘missing’, let’s get playing.

Initial Impressions

When I fired up Gloomhaven for the first time, there were some intial dialogue screens that basically read:

“Hey, thanks for buying Gloomhaven. It’s Early Access and we know there will be problems, sorry in advance. We promise to try and not break your games as we do updates, but we can’t guarentee it. Also, if you haven’t played Gloomhaven before, the tutorial is being worked on and fleshed out. Have fun, and let us know your feedback!”

Now I have been avoiding the physical version for about 8 months, so I was pretty much a newbie again. What I wasn’t expecting was a locked tutorial menu option though! Without reading any rules beforehand expecting some handholding from the game, I nevertheless continued on.

Adventure Mode

The current game mode and I would guess the post campaign mode of choice, Adventure Mode lets you explore the lands in a proceduraly generated set of adventures.

From your base town, you have paths with different difficulty levels of adventure. The more of a challenge, the greater the rewards – hardly unique to Gloomhaven!

The map itself looks like a hand drawn map, including some nice touches like animated clouds. When you begin your scenario, you enter your dungeon and always have your objective up on screen, which is nice.

The graphics and animations are nice, and serve their purpose well. Gloomhaven is undeniably pretty without being over the top. I did notice some jagged edges on shadows when zoomed in close, and I am not a fan yet of the way the walls become see through, but I got used to both quickly enough.

Choose your path, and see what adventures wait for you
All of the relevant information is shown on screen in an easy to see way

Combat is effectively the same as the board game, and familiar territory for any turn based strategy fan – XCom fans for example will already have the pacing down pat.

The firelight flickers nicely, the gold coin drops shimmer beautifully, and the attack animations are fun to watch still.

Having only gotten a little way in, it will be interesting to see where Adventure Mode ‘ends’ if at all. There is a lot of potential for quick dungeon runs here!

Controls are very intuitive, and even without looking anything up controls wise I was panning the camera and navigating with ease. I have no doubt I am probably overlooking some very helpful commands already, but until the tutorial is released and/or I sit carefully with the game manual again, I am not worried about that.

Everything is working the way I would expect it to work, which is just what you want in a game really.

The Deep End and Party Death

So on my first scenario, I almost got to the end reasonably well but my party got wiped. Not by the enemies – by my bad playing.

Only half remembering how to play Gloomhaven after not looking at a manual for months, I forgot how important hand management was in this game. Your character may be at full health and ready to go, but if you run out of ability cards (and you have to discard them throughout the scenario), they become exhausted and are effectively out.

This makes for an effective timer in the game – no ‘hanging back until everyone comes to you’. But when you forget about that intially and throw cards away for the sake of it – or worse don’t know that rule – you will fail quickly and hard.

See those really dark cards on the right? I can't use them anymore this scenario. This builds in a timer to battles.

Now I am not saying this as a complaint – far from it. This is an example of why Gloomhaven is such a popular board game!

But if you are going in only having heard about Gloomhaven, you may get the wrong idea from the digital game.

This is only because of the current lack of tutorial within the game – once you are introduced to the game mechanics, I am sure you will be enjoying your adventures. It’s just being left to sink or swim today might put some players off.

So what is wrong with the current version?

A question many will be asking, and it is one that really depends on your point of view. Overall Gloomhaven is what is advertised – an Early Access Game that will have content added over time.

Some will be complaining about paying full price for a game with limited characters, enemies, maps, etc. If that is your concern, wait for the full game release would be my advice.

There were a couple of times during the game (the second game in particular) where my attacks seemed to be doing no damage even though the target wasn’t shielded.

The stats just aren't right on this screen - it's a bit of a puzzle, but far from game breaking

I could have been missing a status icon or the like, but I don’t think so. Bottom line though it took me an extra round to take out the two Living Bones, so no real harm done.

The victory screen stats also aren’t correct. I opened doors, took damage, pushed an enemy on a trap, but none of this shows. Is this a bug? Yes. Did it break the game? No.

After playing Gloomhaven for a couple of hours, right now I can see a fun quick dungeon crawl experience that is going to be improved. In a few months, the first major ‘update’ is set to include the Tinkerer class and take into account early feedback. Coming around December will be a new environment with new enemies and bosses.

Will there be bug fixes? Yes. Will things like the tutorial and multiplayer eventually be opened up? Sure. But they aren’t here yet.

Should I get Gloomhaven now?

The real million dollar question. It depends.

If you love the physical version and want to have a look at a digital release shaping up to being done well, yes I think you should get Gloomhaven. Even if you tear through its content and get bored, you will get all of the content later so it’s not like you will be missing out.

If you are just curious about Gloomhaven and want to see what all the fuss is about – hold off. Not don’t get it, there is not enough to guide you through the experience yet. While the basic information is shown in the compendium, maybe watch a How To Play video for the board game first for a better idea of how the game works.

All of the technical information is available in the Compendium - but it's not the same as learning the game

I wouldn’t expect to see the final version released before this time next year. Not out of any pessimism, but if the second update is due around the holidays, it’s not exactly a rapid fire release schedule. Overall I think this is a good thing though – I would rather a good polished game than a rushed one.

And while the graphics are very pretty, they aren’t exactly photorealistic. Not going to lie – if Gloomhaven can come out on Switch, I will be buying it again just as enthusiastically!

So you mentioned last week something about capturing the game?

If you would like to see my first attempt at a capture video with the new setup and all the terrible choices I made in playing a game I didn’t look up how to play, have I got a surprise for you.

Yep – I recorded my first game! I was going to time lapse sections of it, but I decided later to just leave it as is. That’s the catch with unscripted videos – what I say on camera isn’t always correct 🙁

If you want to see what it’s like jumping in with no knowledge right now, this is probably a good indication of what to expect. It has been so long since I played Gloomhaven, this is pretty much the same as trying the game knowing nothing about it.

Hopefully this will be the first of a new series called ‘JohnHQLD Tries To Play’. This series is almost in Early Access itself, so for the moment I ask for patience with the layout and content (little things like forgetting to talk halfway through for example). While far from a must watch clip, I thought I would leave it to show exactly what going in blind would be like, and get some feedback on if you think this sort of video series would be fun to watch!

So without further delay, don’t say you haven’t been warned, here is my trying to play Gloomhaven!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pandemic is coming to XBox One and Switch August 1st!

Pandemic can now be installed almost anywhere

I really enjoy Pandemic. Anyone that has played with me or seen my collection knows this to be true. If you would like my thoughts on the game, you can see me review here. Short version though – I consider Pandemic a classic, and a game everyone should play.

A few years ago, I grabbed Pandemic for iOS. It was fun to be able to pick up my phone and play a game or two with no setup times, just the core game experience. Like most digital board games, it was a quick solo distraction that was fun, and back in those days it was also a rare treat – it was a good digital version.

It was a lot of little things that made the digital version so much fun. Hitting new game for the first time on iOS bought up a choice for how much help teaching you Pandemic you needed. It even has the rulebooks (albeit in a simple point form) of the board games to let you see what it’s doing in the background!

I got a few of my friends into it as well. It was surprising how much the tension built with the music in the background. Even the simple animations built excitement and terror as you watched outbreaks spread out of control!

The iPad version, the first time you hit new game.

When I went from iOS to Android, I didn’t pick up Pandemic on my new phone, but I did grab it on Steam on sale and have a game or two on my iPad when I need to take it somewhere.

It wasn’t because I don’t enjoy playing Pandemic, it was because a lot of board game adaptions had been getting better and better so I had more to choose from. Plus, I prefer playing Pandemic with people – the cooperative nature is half the fun!

That said, that busy outfit Asmodee Media announced today that Pandemic is coming to XBox One and the Switch August 1st!

It looks like it will be just the base game initally, with the On the Brink Expansion coming in September.

Nothing against the XBox, but I think this will be a great fit for the Switch. Being able to play party type games already on the go, being able to play Pandemic in a hot seat mode with the Switch seems to be a great fit.

Who will you choose to help you save the world?

There is also the easier nature of the touch screen with the Switch. Playing on mobile and PC, I definitely prefer the tocuh method to using a mouse, so using a controller I don’t think will be as good.

That is of course assuming that you have to move a pointer around the screen with the left stick or similar. Until I see how the control method on XBox works, just keep it in mind as something I am wary of rather than a blanket statement of bad controls.

If you already know Pandemic, you already know exactly what information is being shown

Pandemic for XBox One and Switch will be priced at USD$19.99 – a little more expensive than the iOS, Android and Steam versions but if that includes the On The Brink expansion then it is a bit of a better deal.

Asmodee Digital also released an announcement trailer this morning, as they have been doing with Catan and similar releases in the past. I have linked the Pandemic video below, but be warned – it’s a nice attempt to try and make Pandemic look and sound cool, but it makes me miss 80’s TV!

I don’t think I will be rushing to get Pandemic on the Switch. I already have 2 digital versions, plus every physical version of the game, so I think I am pretty sorted.

But if you would like to play the original Pandemic and digital is a good choice becuase of price/storage/players/whatever, I highly recommend the digital version to play.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Gloomhaven Early Access Price Announced

Gloomhaven Digital Gameplay 2

So now we know when it’s coming, and roughly how much

So I have talked about this a couple of times now, but Gloomhaven is almost here – digitally that is.

On the 17th of July (I am guessing late in the day for Australia), Early Access will unlock for Gloomhaven for the price of USD$24.99.

At the start of the Early Access, players will be able play a roguelike (i.e. random) Adventure Mode, combining both combat and exploration.

The roster of characters, enemies and bosses (and all of their abilities!) will be updated and added regularly during Early Access.  Eventually, you will be able to play the full Gloomhaven boardgame campaign!

But you already know this. Check out the new gameplay overview for a look at what the new Gloomhaven will be like:

All going to plan, I will be going to sit down and play for about an hour so the Saturday after it’s release.

I will give you thoughts on the game after that. And hopefully, I will include gameplay video as well 😀

Until then,

JohnHQLD

Zombicide is now available for iOS and Android

Zombicide Feature

Now I won’t be making chainsaw sounds with my mouth 😀

Dungeon crawling action has been a tabletop staple for years.  A few years ago, CMON created a Kickstarter craze with a little known game called Zombicide.

I backed the original, and it was fun enough.  I even painted most of the minis.  To be honest, I ended up giving away seasons 1 to 3 though.

The core ideas are sound, but mechanically Zombicide missed a few beats for me.  The extra seasons and the new types of Zombies only added to a bit of a mess.  It was largely the huge amount of downtime between turns and contradicting rules that turned me off.

Now, I have Zombicide Black Plague which fixes a few of those issues, but it’s still a slog to get to the table.  Coupled with getting at least 2-3 others to play a game that is a bit ‘meh’ for a couple of hours, and it just doesn’t get played.

That may change over the next few days.  Asmodee Digital has released Zombicide for iOS and Android, and by all accounts, it should be available later today!

Zombicide Tablet Gameplay
AI to take over all the bookeeping - sounds good to me!

Bit of single player pick up and put down zombie killing sounds pretty good to me, and the base game has 40 missions to play through.

For the table, Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce and the like will hopefully take this spot.  But on digital, to pick up and play through an essentially turn-based video game?  That sounds great!

Check out the trailer below:

The timing couldn’t be better for this release.  With most of my gaming all packed up ready to move, a new mobile diversion sounds great 🙂

**UPDATE: Found it!  If you search for Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns it appears in the respective stores.  Google play link is here.

I will be picking this up as soon as I can to try it out.  By rights, it should be available now, but I couldn’t find it on the Google Play store yet, so hopefully, that is fixed by tomorrow.

Long term though, I hope this is another game that makes it to the Switch – I think that would be better for a game like this.  Time will tell!

Once I have played a couple of games, I will let you know how it all went!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Catan available on the Switch June 20!

Catan Switch Key Art

Asking ‘Wood for Sheep?’ on the bus will soon be  less awkward

A common reaction when you say you play board games to people that don’t play is you are asked: “Oh, like Monopoly, Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit?”

The last few years though, a couple of new titles have started leaking into this general group.  One of those titles is Catan (original Settlers of Catan).  Today, some news has come that will introduce Catan to even more potential players:

This isn’t the first time Catan has gone digital – there is the PC version I still have on Steam (although I haven’t played it in years) as well as mobile versions and even PS3.

The version that looked the most interesting to me from a technical perspective was a VR implementation that you could only get through the Oculus store.  This seems to have changed, as I can now buy it on steam so post move I may give this a go!

Catan Switch Key Art
Soon Catan will be even more portable

I don’t know if I will rush to get Catan on the Switch, but that’s only because in a lot of ways Catan has been replaced in my favourite games to play.  The ability to play it on the Switch on the go or on the big screen though may convince me to play it a lot more – it depends on the pricing I think.

Asmodee Digital is definitely coming out all guns blazing with Switch support, with Catan being the first of the announced games to be coming out.  Future games include Pandemic and Carcassonne from the board game stable as well as possibly other Catan titles.  Card games aren’t being left out either with Lord of the Rings and Munchkin announced as well!

It will be interesting to see how many people will try these digital versions and then come and try other physical board games.  It will be interesting indeed!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Love Letter has gone digital

Love Letter Digital

If it’s digital, does that make it Love Email?

Yeah, if you stop reading after that terrible pun, I understand.  But I don’t apologise for it :p

A while ago I did a review on a whole bunch of different Love Letter games.  To date, my favourite non-extended/premium version is still Batman Love Letter, but as I said in the review you can add the guard rule pretty easily to any version.

Going through a few bits and pieces of news info from when I was away, I found this little trailer quietly sitting in my notifications on YouTube:

It looks pretty, and the pricing doesn’t seem to bad at USD$7 for the Steam version which is the most expensive.

My initial thought on a digital version was “That’s cute.  I don’t think I really want it though”.  Then I thought about it a little more.

I play things like Onirim and The Game on my phone fairly regularly – so regularly I don’t even think of them as games anymore, just something I do.  And Love Letter is even quicker than both of these games.

There is a solo mode against AI opponents and online play which would also widen the potential player pool and help get more games played.

Technically there is also a pass and play mode, but except for trying the ‘cheap’ digital version to see if you like a game I can’t see why you would do this.  It’s just a personal choice – if there are people I want to play a game with, I would rather sit around a table than a phone.

The art of the video definitely captures the feel of the original art, but as shown in my review there are also a lot of popular variants as well.  Maybe these will come as expansions in the future?

Love Letter Digital Scores
I am guessing the numberical scores are a kind of ranking system? It does have me intrigued, but not yet hooked

If you are interested in having a look for yourself, links and prices are shown below:

Google Play – AUD$4.59
iTunes – AUD$5.99
Steam – USD$7

It’s cheap enough on the phone, but I might see if there is a sale on the Steam version before buying – unless I really want another game on my phone.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

So you have seen the reviews for Onitama, how about a free game?

Onitama Feature

Isn’t it great when you can learn and try a game for free

So this week I have reviewed Onitama and it’s first expansion, Sensei’s Path.

Short version – I really like Onitama, and I think it has a wide appeal factor.  But me briefly talking about a simple game can still make it hard to visualise how to play or what’s involved.

So Asmodee Digital have decided to he guesswork out of if you should buy the game or not, and made the digital version of Onitama free!

Up front yes there is in-app purchases, and at the moment these are the Sensei’s Path moves and a reskin for the board and pieces.

The original base game is complete and free to play either vs the CPU or pass and play with a friend.  Even online if you are into that!

The tutorial is great and easy to follow, and you will be playing on your own in no time.  I haven’t put any money into the other skin or the Sensei’s Path tiles yet, as really this is just a game for me to pass some time with against the CPU, but it’s still a great game.

Onitama App Tutorial
The tutorial is quick and to the point, and very easy to follow.

Onitama has quickly risen to my ‘main screen’ app choices for a quick move or three while I wait for something else.

Just like the board game, it can be very relaxing to sit and play a couple of rounds, but I still prefer the board game version.

The app does a great job of translating the game – the flow and moves are all there perfectly.  Moving the pieces and feeling them in your hand while seeing the board from different angles though just adds to the atmosphere of the game.

While I don’t see people carrying the app around as an alternative to playing the game, I love it when companies do apps like this.  On one hand, you have a free tutorial and trial of a great game.  If you decide you enjoy it, buying the physical version is a safe buy – you know you like the game already.

If you are a solo gamer or don’t play with others regularly but still love the game, buy the in-app purchases for the expansion moves and you are set as well.

Onitama App About to Win
About to move my master into their school temple. Victory is mine!

If you thought that the reviews for Onitama sounded interesting at all, give the app a try.  It’s available for iOS and Android, and even if you only get 10 minutes play out of it I think it will be worth your time.

If you are still on the fence, the trailer is below to show you what’s in the game without committing to a download 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Gloomhaven is coming to PC via Steam in 2019

Gloomhaven Digital Feature

It’s true – Gloomhaven is going digital

Gen Con has been going strong again.  By the time this article is up, the annual event will be wrapped up.  Wallets will think themselves safe for another week after the purchasing frenzy of new releases and wishlist additions grows ever longer.

It’s no surprise there has been new game announcements that have had me reaching for my credit card yet again.  There are a few games I have been waiting for, and a few that have come out of left field for me.  Nothing strange there, and you will be reading about some of these titles over the next few days.

Board Games in general though have almost taken a similar place in my game times as some of my Video Games.

The Witcher 3, for example, is a game I will play, and play at my pace.  This massive world will be explored fully, with every piece of lore I can find studied to the nth degree.  But right now, Octopath Traveler is being played in its place.

Nowadays I have board games that find themselves in similar positions.  Legacy of Dragonholt is a game I have been happy to put on hold, but will probably knock over for in two days.   Arkham Horror LCG is a game that is starting to get at least a fortnightly play session in, but it won’t take much to displace this.

And then there is Gloomhaven.

Gloomhaven Box
It looks like a normal game box. Then you realise it's 10kg and takes up a shelf on its own.

Gloomhaven is a 10kg box of legacy adventuring goodness.  It is a game that is simply described – a dungeon crawler with legacy like elements.

And that description is somehow accurate but in every important way completely wrong.

It is a game that takes hours to punch and sort.  I ended up buying a wooden insert, making my game now closer to 14kg or now organised gaming goodness.

But it has the problem of I want to play the game and give it the attention it deserves.  Each game takes an hour or three?  Fine.  But each game is a part of an estimated 100+hour board game and from all reports a unique experience for each player.

Now there are plenty of times that such hype is given, however Gloomhaven has a few points going its way.  In its first year with a limited print run, it became the number 1 game on Board Game Geek of all time.  It has sold approximately 120,000 copies as of the time of writing, with another 60,000 being printed – and there is already concern that this third printing won’t be enough.

That’s right – a game that came to Kickstarter because its designer Isaac Childers didn’t think anyone would buy the huge expensive game that makes up Gloomhaven can’t stay on the shelves.

Well this Gen Con, Asmodee Digital has come up with an interesting halfway solution.

That’s right – Gloomhaven is going digital.

Now I know I called this a halfway solution, and for the moment I am going to stick with this.

Initially Gloomhaven Digital will be a solo dungeon crawling experience, with campaign elements and multiplayer to come.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is a quicker way to get it into gamers hands.

However, the huge box and cost of Gloomhaven is justified by the fact that a campaign that exceeds some video games is fully included in the box.

Gloomhaven Digital Gameplay 1
No table space or setup required - Gloomhaven Digital edition

With all this goodness comes the issue for players like myself where this much content makes the game difficult to just play.

Setup has been a good 20 minute affair, and then once everything is done and ready to put away up to 40 minutes to resort and put away.  The two initial games I have played were easily an hour longer hour than they had to be simply because I had to look up a bunch of rules again.

Taking Gloomhaven digital means that none of this needs to be.  No parts can be misplaced or lost, and the games bookkeeping elements are handled by the game itself.

And even better for a lot of people – no rulebook to read.  The game keeps track of all that itself, you can’t get a rule wrong that can have lasting impact throughout the campaign.

Gloomhaven Digital Gameplay 2
Playing through a dungeon will definitely move quicker though

So there is a lot to be said for the transition to digital.  This will open up the world of Gloomhaven to many new players for a much lower price point.  But Asmodee Digital have already said they are only aiming for the spirit of Gloomhaven, not a true digital conversion, so does this make Gloomhaven Digital a side game type of affair?

I have added Gloomhaven to my Steam wishlist and will be keeping an eye on it in the months to come.  But I would be keeping this as a new Gloomhaven experience until a lot more information comes out, rather than looking forward to a true Gloomhaven experience in digital form.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Istanbul the Board Game now available on iOS and Android

Istanbul Board Game Digital The Game Begins

I’m still not making the Constantinople joke

Playing a game means many things to many people.  This tends to create groups of people, and gaming is no exception.  Video Games –  Yuck (well, if you ask Alpal).  Board Games – Where are the buttons? RPGs – what do you mean it’s all in your head?

There are some games that blur the lines, such as XCom (which was a great experiment) and Mansions of Madness 2nd edition (finally letting me play an investigator!).

Then there is the growing trend of digital board games.  Historically, these have been pretty hit and miss, and tabletop players tended to avoid them.  Lately, some implementations have been good though.  Really good, with some becoming my solo play method of choice.

Onirim for example while fun is great on my phone.  I can get in a game really quickly, and I don’t have to shuffle the deck 20 times a game.  Lords of Waterdeep is a game I can pick up and put down with the AI players and play over a week if I want to.

So hoping to find another game I enjoy but don’t get to play much, I picked up Istanbul on my phone the other day and gave it a whirl.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Menu Screen
The Adventure is about to begin. Well, by Adventure I mean Tuturiol mode

The first thing you will see is the art is beautiful and very faithful to the board game version.  Even the loading screen looks fantastic.

The second thing I noticed is the text size.  I am ok with smallish text, but I also have a lot of people in the office look at my screen and squint a lot.  While you don’t need the text once you know the game, if you need to up the text size a lot maybe play this on a tablet or when it hits Steam.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Tutorial
The first screen of the tutorial. It explains the game pretty well, but if you have trouble with small text you may be in trouble.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

To help with this, each location has the information on what it does as a part of each location.  The controls for how to do this are also fairly intuitive – ‘pick’ the location card just like if you were playing the board game, and while focusing on the location you can just read the text.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Post Office
Why would I want to go to the Post Office? Oh that's right

The biggest thing with Istanbul though is that it is not a light and casual game.  It’s not the most intricate of games or anything like that, but I know a lot of people that have gotten confused by their first game or two and been put off playing it ever again.

I don’t think the digital version will help with this.  You really need to know the rules of the game to get the most out of it, beautiful presentation or not.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Movement
They even animated the stacks of your assistants and family member. It's a small touch, but appreciated.

There have also been a couple of interactions that are illegal in the board game (such as family member interacting with the Governor and the Smuggler).  This has been corrected with an update, so the commitment to following the official rules is clear, but it was a little confusing initially.

So what do I think of the digital Istanbul?  In a lot of ways, it’s still too early to tell, but I have a few conclusions already.

  1. If you want to buy the digital version to try and learn Istanbul, that’s not a bad idea but I would probably grab the board game rules and/or watch a couple of YouTube how to play videos rather than rely solely on the tutorial.
  2. Like almost all of my digital board games, I can’t see myself playing this with anything but the computer.  Playing remotely waiting for turns is great when you want to play with someone far away, but I would still prefer to play the physical copy multiplayer.
  3. I was hoping the game would be more pick up and put down like in Lords of Waterdeep, and it really isn’t.  This isn’t the games fault, I was just hoping for more than it could be.  Istanbul is a game of longer-term plays and situational decisions, and putting the phone down for a day makes this kind of play difficult.

Bottom line though, if you don’t already know about Istanbul and want to at least try it, I wouldn’t recommend it as a casual purchase.  If they ever do a digital copy of Istanbul the Dice game maybe, but not Istanbul the Board Game.

Right now, Istanbul the Board Game is available on iOS and Android, with Steam to come in the near future.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD